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Smithsonian Institution Libraries

Library Overview

Composed of 20 distinct libraries, the Smithsonian Institution Libraries holds over 1.5 million volumes, including 40,000 rare books and manuscripts. These collections support the daily work of the Smithsonian's nearly 6,000 staff, another 6,000 volunteers, and thousands of interns, fellows, and independent researchers. Many of the libraries hold distinctive, specialized collections, but the most valuable are housed in dedicated rare book facilities. The Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology, established in 1976 at the National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center, with a gift from the Burndy Library (created by Bern Dibner), holds major works dating from the 15th to the early 19th centuries in the history of science and technology including engineering, transportation, chemistry, mathematics, physics, electricity, and astronomy. Among them are the 200 "Heralds of Science," the most distinctive works in the history of science selected by Bern Dibner and ranging from Aristotle, Galileo, and Copernicus to Marie Curie and James Watson. The Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Library of Natural History opened in 2002 in the National Museum of Natural History and houses 10,000 volumes on the fields of physical and cultural anthropology; Native American linguistics; ethnology; botany; zoology; paleontology; and geology and mineralogy. Special strengths are 17th- through 19th-century voyages of exploration and the history of museums and scientific collecting. Outside of Washington, the Bradley Room at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum Library contains rare books on the decorative arts and architecture, sample books, pop-up books, and World's Fair material. William Burden's collection of early ballooning works and the Bella Landauer collection of aeronautical sheet music are two special collections in the Admiral DeWitt Clinton Ramsey Room, National Air and Space Museum Library. The libraries of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and the Freer and Sackler Galleries of Art house precious and rare works in contemporary art and Japanese and Chinese art respectively.

Smithsonian Institution Libraries
PO Box 37012 MRC 154
Washington, DC 20013-7012
(202) 633-2240 (t)
(202) 786-2866 (f)